“Back in the good old days...” 

How many times have you heard someone talk about how wonderful life was back in the good old days?  My dad was always talking about the good old days, but to be honest, they never sounded that great to me.

Exactly when did the good old days take place and what made them good old days? I’ve heard myself make that same reference numerous times. 

I guess the good old days that I fondly remember took place when I was a kid. Looking back, I remember living an easy life. No job other than school to get up and go to every morning. No bills to pay. My place to live, clothing, food, everything I needed was provided by my parents. 

I remember good, clean programs on TV, news reports you could trust, and politicians who worked together for the good of the country instead of fighting each other. I remember living in a community where no one bothered to lock their doors. People trusted each other, and when someone was in need, they quickly banded together to help.

I could ride my bike anywhere. My parents never worried about me being kidnapped or harmed. It was an easy, peaceful and gentle time. It truly was the good old days.

But when I think about it a little deeper, I remember a few more things. We lived on a farm and dad worked our tails off. I remember when our car broke down, and there was no money to fix it. We had to walk everywhere for several months. The long walk in the summer heat to town, then back again with a load of groceries was no fun. 

When I was in the fourth grade, the world came to a screeching halt with the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I remember the TV coverage of his funeral, and watching the funeral procession as it moved slowly down the street. I remember Vietnam. I’ll never forget hearing the news that one of my cousins had been shot several times by snipers while on patrol. He was one of the lucky ones. Very few of members of his platoon survived that attack. He survived, but he has never been the same.

I remember a student in my school that died from leukemia. In those days the illness was pretty much an automatic death sentence. I remember a great aunt who succumbed to cancer. Very little was known about that disease back then. I remember hearing the adults say that there wasn’t anything the doctors could do for her. In today’s world, she probably would have survived.  

I remember hearing my dad, his brothers and sisters, talk about the good old days. They were full of happy stories about their childhoods, and early adult lives. They spoke fondly of the simple easy times, the wonderful music and the happiness that came so easily to everyone who lived in that era.

But they seemed to forget about the brutal wars, the Dust Bowl, the great Depression, and the millions who died from smallpox, whooping cough, polio and so many other things we seldom hear about today.  They forgot about so many things that had made their lives a constant struggle for survival. They forgot about the many who didn’t survive.

Perhaps when we think about the good old days, we somehow unconsciously filter out all of the unpleasant memories, and we only recall the good ones. When we look back, it’s easy to see those times as perfect days. Somehow we manage to overlook the unpleasant moments we had to fight our way through.

Every generation has its share of misfortunes and painful events. While one generation is living what they will one day remember as their good old days, another is longing to return to a time they believe to be the best days of their lives. If we actually could go back, we would likely discover that life was just as challenging and difficult then as it is now. 

My good old days had no air conditioning, no microwave ovens, and very few of the comforts and conveniences that we view as necessities today. Some of my friends still occasionally had to use outdoor plumbing. When I think about it, I really don’t want to return to that world. I experienced many things as a child and a teenager that I would not want to revisit.

I’ll admit that world of today is much different than the world of my childhood. While I don’t appreciate some of the social, economic and political changes that we face today, I know there were also things that I struggled to understand and deal with back then. I am sure my children will look back at their lives and feel some of the same regrets about the changes they have seen. 

But maybe we are looking at everything totally wrong. Perhaps our good old days are not the moments behind us, but rather the moments we are living now. The best days are the ones we spend with those we love. I believe that those are the good old days. We can rejoice and celebrate those happy moments, and strive to help each other to cope with our ever-changing world. 

My life is full of many wonderful memories. But I find no benefit in looking back with sadness and spending my days longing for a time I can never return to. Our world is not perfect, but my life is full of wonderful moments and people that I cherish. I believe I am living the best part of my life right now, and I am going to enjoy every possible moment. I’m not looking backward with regret. I am looking forward with anticipation.

I have to agree with the words of a song by singer Carly Simon — stay right here, cause these are the good old days.

CourierTraveler reporter John Shelman can be contacted at (620) 442-4200 or reporter@ctnewsonline.com.

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